Duke seeks South Carolina approval for Lee coal ash disposal

Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) said Dec. 18 that it has submitted filings to state regulators outlining additional ash excavation plans for its W.S. Lee Steam Station in Belton, S.C.

The W.S. Lee Steam Station officially was retired as a coal plant on Nov. 6, 2014. W.S. Lee was Duke Energy’s last remaining coal-fired plant in South Carolina. Units 1 and 2 will be decommissioned, and Unit 3 is being converted to burn natural gas. A separate 750-MW natural gas combined-cycle plant will be built at the site, with construction expected to begin in summer 2015.

The retired coal plant has ash in two active basins, referred to as the primary and secondary basins. The site also has an inactive ash basin constructed in the 1950s, an ash structural fill and an ash fill. These storage areas hold a total of about 3.2 million tons. On Sept. 23, the company announced that ash from the inactive basin and ash fill area would be excavated. As part of an agreement with South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC), Duke Energy on Dec. 18 filed an ash removal plan and schedule.

The company has selected Waste Management to excavate and transport ash from the inactive basin and ash fill area to a fully lined solid waste landfill in Homer, Ga., operated by Waste Management. Trucks will haul the ash because the landfill has no rail access.

Excavation of these two areas of the site represents about 44% of ash on the property and is expected to take about three years once Duke Energy receives SCDHEC approval of the plan and all required permits.

In addition, the company has continued site-specific engineering work to develop a closure strategy for the remaining ash at W.S. Lee, including the primary basin, secondary basin and structural fill. With that analysis complete, Duke Energy filed with SCDHEC its recommendation to excavate those additional areas and re-locate ash to a fully lined solution.

“The drivers for complete excavation at W.S. Lee are technical in nature. We also incorporated input from the environmental community and other stakeholders to ensure this solution was consistent with our guiding principles,” said John Elnitsky, senior vice president for ash strategy. “The primary and secondary basins are not ideal long-term locations to house the ash because of the work that would be needed to upgrade those areas for future storage.”

The company will continue to evaluate fully lined disposal options for ash excavated from the active basins and structural fill, including a possible on-site landfill.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.